Photo: Courtesy Torbertha Torbor
World Refugee Day has always been a moment to recognize and amplify the experiences of refugees from around the world. As we prepare to observe World Refugee Day in the midst of a global pandemic, Switchboard is particularly grateful for the courage and resilience of refugees in the United States who are working tirelessly to keep us all safe.
Roughly 14% of US residents are immigrants, including refugees. According to data from New American Economy, refugees and immigrants make up 16.5% of all healthcare workers, including 28.7% of all physicians and 36.5% of all home health aides; refugees and immigrants disproportionately serve in these critical roles. We also know that COVID-19 disproportionately impacts communities of color, reiterating the need to shine a spotlight on damaging health disparities along with the unflagging efforts of all those working to combat this disease.
Those individuals include Torbertha Tobor, who resettled with her family to the United States in 2004. Her personal experience while displaced, seeing the lifesaving impacts of access to quality healthcare, and the devastating impacts of a lack of access, inspired her to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner in Oakland, California. As she notes in a recent interview:
“Every day, there are refugees working extremely hard to give back to their communities. They’re very goal-oriented because they know where they came from.
Even coming here to the U.S. and going to school, that’s giving back to your community. If you are educated, you have resources to give back to an underserved population or to a community that needs tutoring. I have seen a lot of both refugees and immigrants going to schools to tutor or working in health care.
We have firsthand experience of how people helped us out—so now we want to help and give back.”
Further Reading and Resources
World Refugee Day
- We Are All America, World Refugee Day 2020 Event List – Be sure to check for more events hosted by organizations in your area! For instance, the International Institute of New England will host a virtual Suitcase Stories event on June 20, 2020 and Utah Refugee Services will host Virtual World Refugee Day events from June 15 to June 20, 2020.
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), World Refugee Day Toolkit 2020
- United Nations (UN), World Refugee Day 2020
- UNHCR and the UN Refugee Agency, World Refugee Day Live Couch Concert with Danny Ocean and Gian Marco on June 19, 2020
Essential Workers Combating COVID-19
- TIME.com, ‘I Have the Skills, I Have the Training.’ How Refugee Doctors Are Helping the U.S. Fight COVID-19 Even Without a Medical License, June 9, 2020.
- Chicago Tribune, Mask sewing project among Chicago refugee groups leads to new career goal: ‘This is my job’, May 6, 2020.
- Refugees.Rescue.org – The IRC is seeking expressions of interest by refugees and immigrants who obtained a degree or certification in the health care field prior to arrival in the US and are now interested in the possibility of assisting in the COVID-19 emergency response.